Like many of you, I was blessed with a seven-year pseudo career as a parent soccer coach from 1997 – 2004. I remember, frequently, turning to an assistant coach or reaching out to a player with the comment, “Remember, we’re not going to do that.” I paid as much attention to conduct and behavior as I did to skill and finesse.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved to win, and I wanted these players to experience the positive outcomes of hard work. Our record was good. We weren’t the best, but we were right up there.
As their leader on the field, I wanted to play a small part in molding them into women of character. I wanted them to be dependable. And I wanted to instill upon them the importance of good habits, tending to the small things. These things would form the foundation for greater successes in their lives.
I found managing the parents to be as challenging as coaching (and managing) the players.
Parents are busy; they have their own priorities. Priorities can get in the way of the kids’ schedules. I also know full well the taxing responsibility of being taxi to multiple children in a household, trying to get everyone from here to there and on time.
Not only are parents busy, they are the fiercest advocates of the children. It was not unusual for parents to advocate for the preferences of their kids relative to their playing time, their position on the field and how many times they were in contact with the ball. A common sideline chant: “Johnny, run to the ball!!” or “Nicky, KICK the ball!”
In the world of youth sports, I’ve seen too much mistreatment of our young people in the spirit of getting the win. While I fully support that these kids need to work hard, meet expectations and do their part (as I’ll outline below), I draw the line at disrespectful treatment in the spirit of winning. I admit, I have on a few occasions imposed myself on coaches and parents who have shown extreme disrespect to young athletes.
Remember, we’re not going to do that
Here are just a few common things I didn’t like to see:
- Coaches angrily yelling at players or throwing their arms into the air in exasperation.
- Players maliciously shoving an opponent.
- Parents coaching from the sidelines.
These behaviors are all predictable, and they come naturally as our human nature kicks into full gear.
The challenge for me, however, is that I fully believe we all have to be intentional in how we show up.
Everyone has a responsibility to be their best self and to know their role in creating a winning environment. Each of the years I coached, I provided coaches, players and parents with written expectations so that players could be successful AND feel good about their experience.
- Arrive at practice on time. If you have to miss a practice, call me in advance.
- Arrive 20 minutes before game time for warm up.
- For both practices and games, ensure you have your shoes, socks, shin guards and water bottle. Please do not have your parents take care of this for you.
- When we win, be gracious about it. Do not boast.
- When we lose, be gracious about it. Do not pout.
- At both practices and games, work your hardest.
- Ensure your player arrives at practice on time. If she is not able to attend a practice, ask HER to call me.
- Ensure your player arrives 20 minutes before game time for warm up.
- Aside from washing their uniform, I’d like to ask you to rely on your player to have her gear. If she arrives at practice without something, I will have a conversation with her.
- Cheer from the sidelines; please no angry yelling.
- Do not coach your player to run to the ball. It may not be their role.
- Enjoy the wins and losses!
- Push players to work their hardest, but do not treat them disrespectfully or angrily at any time.
The interesting thing about expectations is that people like them and want them. Expectations that have been identified, written down and communicated set people up for success.
With clear expectations, people can win, AND they can hold one another accountable.
Over the years, I received feedback from parents that they were self-managing on the sidelines. “We’re not supposed to do that.” And with the players, I could simply say, “Remember the expectation.”
And, of course, when everyone was on point, I had the privilege of saying, “Thank you.”
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